It’s looking like the reopening of child care centres in Hamilton is going to take quite a bit longer than many parents might have been hoping for.
In a press release sent Thursday (June 11) the City of Hamilton said that in consultation with Hamilton Public Health Services, it is developing a framework for a gradual and safe reopening of licensed child care centres in the city.
Earlier this week, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that child care centres would be allowed to reopen by Friday (June 12).
At a virtual media briefing with the director of Hamilton’s Emergency Operations Centre, Paul Johnson told reporters that the timeline was “optimistic.”
“This is the earliest date that they can open,” he said. “This is going to take time.”
As per provincial guidelines released Wednesday (June 10), all centres will be required to follow strict health protocols and meet additional requirements to safely reopen.
The new protocols include enhanced cleaning, mandatory screening of staff and children, limitations on visitors, and ensuring an updated COVID-19 response plan is in place.
Additionally, restrictions on the size of groups will be limited to 10 individuals per room, including both staff and children.
The City’s framework will be based on the direction of the local Medical Officer of Health and will outline the requirements for all licensed child care providers in Hamilton, including completing and passing a Public Health inspection prior to reopening.
There are 234 child care locations in Hamilton operated by 94 child care organizations.
The city says that all child care centre staff will be required to complete mandatory training prior to reopening.
In a memo sent to child care centre operators on Wednesday, the city also said they’re working with Affiliated Services for Children and Youth (ASCY) to source Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for centres.
“The Province’s announcement regarding reopening plans for child care centres is encouraging for both the economy, as well as for families waiting to confidently return to their workplace,” Mayor Fred Eisenberger said in the release.
“Hamilton’s gradual approach emphasizes that safety is our main priority and is consistent with the City’s broader reopening plans.”
More than 14,000 child care spaces were available in Hamilton for children ages 0 to 12 years (as of March 17, 2020). As part of the reopening, the number of available spaces at each location will be greatly reduced in order to meet new provincial protocols.
Emergency child care for frontline essential workers provided through three licensed home child care agencies since late March will wind down effective June 26.
The city says that they will support those families in their return to their previous arrangement, or will help them find new space during the transition back to regular child care.
In terms of centres prioritizing their child care spaces, the province recommends centres follow some of these suggestions:
- Returning children served through emergency child care to their original placement and continuity of service for these families;
- Care for families where parents must return to work and that work outside of the home;
- Families with special circumstances that would benefit from children returning to care, such as children with special needs; and
- Other local circumstances.
“We will continue working closely with both our Public Health colleagues and child care agencies to ensure a safe and supported approach to reopening child care centres in Hamilton,” said Grace Mater, the city’s Director, Children’s Services and Neighbourhood Development.
“No set dates are confirmed at this time.”
Mater added: “We are committed to keeping families updated on plans for reopening as additional information and direction from the Province of Ontario and local Public Health team becomes available.”